Posts Tagged ‘Max Brenner’

Buttermilk Chocolate Cupcakes


By Sarah Lagrotteria

This New Year’s Eve I want to share with you one of my favorite recipes from times gone past: my mom’s chocolate cake with buttermilk frosting.  Actually, it’s my mom’s friend Fern’s recipe and I’m sure Fern (don’t you love her name?) got it from a friend who probably got it from a classic cookbook, but to me it’s my mom’s cake and simply the best, most versatile chocolate cake recipe. My mom used it to make our birthday cakes and I used it just a few weeks ago to make Lydia’s birthday cupcakes.  It’s also the last recipe featured in this cookbook under the name “Recipe 66.”

You can use the recipe below to make one 9-inch round cake, a square 8×8, a rectangular 8×13 (for a very thin but rich cake) or to fill 2 cupcake or mini-cupcake tins.  It is equally delicious gluten-free, which is how I make it for Lydia’s FIANCEE (!!), dear Drew.

What you’re looking at are the cupcakes from Lydia’s birthday which I gilded and silvered because it was fun and unlike how I normally handle foodstuffs.  I usually like my food to look like food, not mini spaceships.  Lydia’s birthday had a chic Mad Men theme and so I decided to turn these cupcakes into homemade Hostess Cupcakes, complete with a mascarpone cream stuffed center.  I got the idea from Sarah Magid’s charming Organic and Chic.  Her baked goodies are beautiful and whimsical and fun and her voice is thoughtful and loving and kind.  And she likes to use paints, such as these.  So I went for it and the cakes sparkled and shone and tasted extra special.

Had I remembered to take a shot before I began painting, you’d see the a shiny, crackly buttermilk frosting that is, quite simply, the bomb, and a definite upgrade from the original Hostess Cupcake glaze.

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with Buttermilk Frosting from Sarah’s Mom’s friend Fern*


2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder (I like Droste or Green & Black)

1 cup water

2 cups AP flour (or gluten-free equivalent)

2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup buttermilk

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (for the gluten-free version, I use 2 teaspoon vanilla extract and a tablespoon of espresso to cover the chickpea flavor of the gluten-free flour.  You can add espresso to the traditional recipe as well)


1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder (I like Droste or Green & Black)

3 tablespoons buttermilk

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

you can also add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts to the frosting if desired.

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter and flour the cake pan of your choice or line your cupcake tins.

2. Make the cake.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the cocoa powder and water.  Bring to a boil them remove from the heat.  Let cool.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.   Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.  Blend well using a hand held mixer or a strong hand and whisk.  Add the cooled cocoa mixture, stirring until just combined. The batter will be thinner than regular cake batters, but this only means you are on your way to making a great cake.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean, about 20-25 minutes for large cakes, about 12-15 for cupcakes and 8-10 for minis.  Let cool completely  before frosting.

4.  Make the frosting.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the cocoa powder and buttermilk.  Bring to a boil then remove from the heat and let cool.  Pour into a large mixing bowl.

5.  Using a handheld mixer, beat the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and walnuts into the cocoa mixer.  Mix until thoroughly combined and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Pour or spread over cooled cake.  The frosting will set into a shiny glaze that crackles like thin ice when you cut into it.  Beautiful.

6. The secret step.  Wrap the cooled and frosted cake loosely in cling wrap and refrigerate it, even if only for an hour or so before serving.   Whereas refrigerating tends to dry out baked goods, it dampens this cake so that it’s amazingly dark, dense and moist, just how I envisioned mud pies when I was little.

Enjoy and best wishes for a happy, healthy 2010.


* Fern gave Angus and I a beautiful pewter cake server as a wedding present-little does she know how perfectly appropriate a gift it was.

Chocolate: A Love Story…


by Sarah Lagrotteria

Loves, I’ve been waiting months to share this exciting news with you.  Chocolate: A Love Story: 65 Chocolate Desserts from Max Brenner’s Private Collection, by Max Brenner and gorgeously illustrated in a fantastical, free association style by  Yonotan Factor has finally arrived in bookstores!

I’m overjoyed for three reasons.  First, who wouldn’t want  a beautiful recipe (and art book) devoted to chocolate?   Second, I was lucky enough to have the chance to work with Max and his assistant Danielle Sarna as a recipe consultant for this beautiful collection-an experience that had me marveling at the ingenuity of Max’s vision and stunned at just how much chocolate I can consume before needing a break (A LOT).  Third, because the book is now on bookshelves, I can share a few of my “behind-the-scenes” pictures of the beautiful, oooey-gooey, fluffy, rich and whimsical treats you’ll find inside!

If you haven’t looked through the book, I suggest you do.  Max Brenner (also known as The Bald Man) is kind, intelligent, fantastically creative and a true poet when it comes to chocolate.  Each recipe in the collection evokes one a personal memory for Max, who shares those memories in brief poetic passages that make this one of those cookbooks with voice.  It’s a joy to read.

Now on to the pix!


Airy profiteroles waiting to be filled with chocolate coconut pastry cream and drizzled with chocolate ganache


A to-die-for homemade doughnut served warm with a sprinkle of powdered sugar…


and filled to oozing with warm raspberry chocolate ganache.  The doughnuts might be my fave.


“Contentious” Chocolate cookies-made with dark and milk chocolates, dried apricots and candied orange zest.  Each bite is a riot of flavor.  I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this recipe.


Chocolate Spaghetti

Looks better than you thought, right?  I devoured two bowls leaning up against the kitchen island.  No time to sit when warm chocolate is cloaking the noodle like the most beautiful carbonara.


And, last, but not least, a HUGE, beautiful pavlova with fresh summer berries.

There are so many more delicious treats than the ones I’ve shown here.  It was a good run and it’s a very special book.